"THE EPISTLE TO THE EPHESIANS" Chapter Three OBJECTIVES IN STUDYING THE CHAPTER 1) To understand the "mystery" so long hidden that is now revealed, and the role of the church 2) To examine Paul's prayer for the Ephesians' enablement, what it means for us today SUMMARY In this chapter Paul reminds his readers of God's grace that has been shown him regarding the revelation of the "mystery". By reading what he had written earlier, they would understand how the "mystery" pertained to Gentiles becoming fellow heirs in Christ, and Paul felt privileged to preach among the Gentiles what for ages had been hidden. Knowing that what he did was part of God's eternal purpose in Christ to make His manifold wisdom known by the church, he asked his brethren not to be discouraged by any tribulations he experienced on their behalf (1-13). The chapter also contains Paul's second prayer for the Ephesians. He prays for their enablement, that the Father would strengthen them by His Spirit, that Christ might dwell in their hearts through faith, that they be able to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge, and so be filled with all the fullness of God. He concludes his prayer and this chapter by ascribing that glory be given to God in the church by Jesus Christ for all eternity (14-21). OUTLINE I. THE REVELATION OF THE MYSTERY (1-13) A. A MYSTERY ONCE HIDDEN, NOW REVEALED (1-7) 1. Interrupting himself, Paul makes mention of God's grace (1-2) a. A measure of grace given to him b. Given for the benefit of his readers 2. That by revelation God made known to Paul the "mystery" (3-4) a. Concerning which he wrote previously b. Which as they read, they will understand his knowledge in the mystery of Christ 3. A "mystery" once hidden, but now revealed (5) a. In other ages it was not made known to men b. But has now been revealed 1) By the Spirit 2) To God's holy apostles and prophets 4. The "mystery" involved the Gentiles (6) a. That they should be fellow heirs, of the same body b. That they should be partakers of God's promise through the gospel 5. Paul's role as a minister of this "mystery" was a gift from God (7) a. A gift of God's grace b. A gift given to him by the effective working of God's power B. PAUL'S TASK AS A MINISTER OF THIS "MYSTERY" (8-13) 1. To preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ (8) a. Even though he was "less than the least of all the saints" b. Yet this grace was given to him 2. To make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery (9-13) a. Which from the beginning was hidden in God who created all things b. But with the intention of now making God's wisdom known 1) Made known by the church 2) Made known to principalities and powers in heavenly places c. According to God's eternal purpose which He fulfilled in Christ Jesus 1) In whom we have boldness and confident access through faith in Him 2) For which Paul does not want them to lose heart over his tribulations in their behalf, which was for their glory II. PAUL'S SECOND PRAYER: FOR THEIR ENABLEMENT (14-21) A. HIS INVOCATION (14-15) 1. In view of God's grace to the Gentiles, Paul bows his knees in prayer (14a) 2. He addresses the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named (14b-15) B. HIS PETITION (16-19) 1. That they would be strengthened by the Spirit of God (16-17) a. According to the riches of His glory b. With might through His Spirit in the inner man c. So Christ may dwell in their hearts through faith 2. That they might comprehend the love of Christ (18-19a) a. Being rooted and grounded in love b. To know the love of Christ which passes knowledge 3. That they might be filled with all the fullness of God (19b) C. HIS DOXOLOGY (20-21) 1. Glory to God, for what He is able to do! (20) a. Able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think b. According to the power that works in us 2. Glory to God, in the church! (21) a. By Christ Jesus b. Throughout all ages, world without end REVIEW QUESTIONS FOR THE CHAPTER 1) What are the main points of this chapter? - The revelation of the mystery (1-13) - Paul's second prayer: for their enablement (14-21) 2) How does Paul identify himself as he begins this chapter? (1) - As the prisoner of Jesus Christ for the Gentiles 3) What dispensation, or measure, of grace was shown by God toward Paul? (2-3) - That by revelation God made known to him the "mystery" 4) What did Paul say we can have by reading what he had written? (3-4) - We can understand his knowledge in the mystery of Christ 5) What does Paul reveal concerning the revelation of this mystery? (5) - In other ages it was not made known, but has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets 6) What is the "mystery" that has now been revealed? (6) - That Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise through the gospel 7) Though viewing himself as "less than the least of all the saints", what gracious task was given to Paul? (8-9) - To preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ - To make all see with is the fellowship of the mystery which was hidden from the beginning 8) What was the intent for proclaiming the revelation of this mystery? (10) - That the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to principalities and powers in the heavenly places 9) According to what was all this being done? (11) - The eternal purpose or plan which God accomplished in Christ Jesus 10) What has Christ therefore made possible for us? (12) - Boldness and access to God with confidence through faith in Him 11) In view of God's grace given to Paul, what does he therefore ask? (14) - For them not to lose heart over his tribulations on their behalf 12) In Paul's second prayer for the Ephesians, for what does he ask? (14-19) - That they would be strengthened by the Spirit of God - That they might comprehend the love of Christ - That they might be filled with all the fullness of God 13) What does Paul say God is able to do? How? (20) - Exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think - According to the power that works in us 14) In what entity does Paul seek to ascribe glory to God? How? For how long? (21) - In the church - By Christ Jesus - Throughout all ages, world without end
"THE EPISTLE TO THE EPHESIANS" Chapter Two OBJECTIVES IN STUDYING THE CHAPTER 1) To consider the riches of God's grace toward sinners, how we are saved by grace through faith 2) To understand the Gentiles' condition outside of Christ, the effect Jesus' death had on the Law, and what Gentiles can now become in Christ SUMMARY Having expressed his desire that his readers might know the exceeding greatness of God's power toward those who believe (1:19), Paul reminds them of how they had been dead in sin but made alive together with Christ. Indeed, they were raised and made to sit together with Christ in the heavenly places, that God might show even more riches of His grace in the ages to come. All this God did by His love, grace, and mercy. While it involved their faith, it did not involve any works whereby one could boast. The end result is that they have been created in Christ to walk in good works, as God planned beforehand (1-10). Paul also wants them to remember how far they have come as Gentiles, courtesy of Jesus Christ. Once strangers from the promises made to Israel and without God in the world, they can now draw near through the blood of Jesus. By His death on the cross Jesus abolished the law of commandments which separated Jews and Gentiles, and has reconciled them both to God in one body. The Gentiles can therefore be fellow-citizens and members of God's family; they are also part of that grand temple being built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets with Jesus as the cornerstone, in which they serve as a habitation of God in the Spirit (11-22). OUTLINE I. RAISED AND SEATED ON THE THRONE (1-10) A. OUR CONDITION OUTSIDE OF CHRIST (1-3) 1. Dead in trespasses and sins (1) 2. Walking according to the course of the world and the devil (2) 3. Fulfilling the desires of the flesh and mind, by nature the children of wrath (3) B. MADE ALIVE TOGETHER WITH CHRIST (4-10) 1. God made us alive together with Christ (4-5) a. By virtue of His mercy and great love b. Even when dead in trespasses c. By His grace we have been saved 2. God raised us with Christ (6-7) a. Made to sit with Him in heavenly places b. That in ages to come God might show the exceeding riches of His grace 3. Saved by grace through faith (8-9) a. Not of ourselves, it is the gift of God b. Not of works, lest any man should boast 4. We are thus God's workmanship (10) a. Created in Christ Jesus for good works b. Created to walk in good works which God prepared beforehand II. RECONCILED AND SET INTO THE TEMPLE (11-22) A. THE GENTILES' CONDITION "WITHOUT" CHRIST (11-12) 1. Aliens from the commonwealth of Israel 2. Strangers from the covenants of promise 3. Having no hope and without God in the world B. THE GENTILES' CONDITION "THROUGH" CHRIST (13-18) 1. Made near by the blood of Christ (13) 2. Can now be "one body" with the Jews, because... a. Jesus has made Jew and Gentile both one, breaking down the wall of division between them (14) b. Jesus abolished in His flesh the law of commandments contained in ordinances that had separated them (15) c. Jesus now reconciles them both to God in one body through the cross (16) d. Jesus preached peace to those afar off and those near (17) 3. Can now have access by one Spirit to the Father (18) C. THE GENTILES' CONDITION "IN" CHRIST (19-22) 1. They are now "fellow citizens with the saints" (19) 2. They are now "members of the household of God" (19) 3. They are now part of "a holy temple in the Lord" (20-22) a. Built upon a foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Jesus the cornerstone b. Joined together and growing as a holy temple, a habitation of God in the Spirit REVIEW QUESTIONS FOR THE CHAPTER 1) What are the main points of this chapter? - Raised and seated on the throne (1-10) - Reconciled and set into the temple (11-22) 2) What was our condition outside of Christ? (1-3) - Dead in trespasses and sins - Walking according to the course of this world and the devil - Fulfilling the desires of the flesh and mind, by nature the children of wrath 3) What motivated God to save us? (4) - His rich mercy and great love 4) What did God do, even though we were dead in trespasses? How? (5) - Made us alive together with Christ - By grace 5) What else has He done? Why? (6-7) - Raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places with Christ - To show the riches of His grace and kindness toward us in Christ in the ages to come 6) Upon what basis have we been saved? Upon what basis have we not been saved? (8-9) - By grace through faith, as the gift of God - Not of ourselves or of works, lest anyone should boast 7) What are we now in Christ Jesus? For what purpose? (10) - God's workmanship - Created in Christ Jesus to walk in good works which God prepared beforehand 8) What was the Gentiles' condition outside of Christ? (11-12) - Aliens from the commonwealth of Israel - Strangers from the covenants of promise - Having no hope, without God in the world 9) What has Christ done through His blood? (13) - Those who once were far off are now brought near 10) How has Jesus become "our peace" through His death on the cross? (14-17) - By breaking down the middle wall of partition between Jew and Gentile - By abolishing in His flesh the law of commandments contained in ordinances that had separated Jew and Gentile - By reconciling them both to God in one body - By preaching peace to those afar off (Gentile) and those near (Jew) 11) What do we both have through Christ? (18) - Access by one Spirit to the Father 12) What can Gentiles now become because of what Christ has done? (19) - Fellow citizens with the saints - Members of the household of God 13) Upon what are we being built? (20) - The foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ as the chief cornerstone 14) What kind of building are we? For what purpose? (21-22) - A holy temple in the Lord - To be a habitation of God in the Spirit
"THE EPISTLE TO THE EPHESIANS" Chapter One OBJECTIVES IN STUDYING THE CHAPTER 1) To review the wonderful blessings God has provided in Christ 2) To understand what Paul desired the Ephesians that they know 3) To notice the greatness of God's power toward those who believe 4) To consider the exalted position of Christ and His church SUMMARY Following a brief salutation (1-2), Paul begins this epistle with an expression of praise to God for the spiritual blessings that are in Christ (3). In this doxology is a list of blessings divided into three sections. The first section describes those blessings related to the Father, how He has chosen us in Christ, predestined us to adoption as sons to Himself, and made us accepted in the Beloved (4-6). The second section focuses on those blessings in relation to the Son, e.g., redemption through His blood, forgiveness of sins, the revelation of His will concerning Jesus Christ, and the inheritance we have obtained, as predestined according to God's will (7-12). The third section describes blessings related to the Holy Spirit, how we are sealed with the Spirit of promise, and how He serves as a "guarantee" (or deposit) of our inheritance (13-14). The key phrase throughout this section is "in Him" (or "in Whom") which stresses the point that all spiritual blessing come through Jesus Christ and enjoyed by those who are "in" Him (cf. 1:1,3). The last half of the chapter contains Paul's first of two prayers that are in this epistle. The prayer in this chapter is for their "enlightenment", that their knowledge and understanding might increase. Paul especially desires that they might know God more fully, what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the great power of God toward those who believe (15-19). Regarding this "power", it is the same power God used to raise Jesus from the dead and seat Him at His right hand. The exalted position now enjoyed by Christ includes authority over all things, especially the church which is described as "His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all." (20-23) OUTLINE I. INTRODUCTION (1-3) A. THE AUTHOR (1a) 1. Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ 2. By the will of God B. THE RECIPIENTS (1b) 1. The saints (who are in Ephesus) 2. The faithful in Christ Jesus C. THE SALUTATION (2) 1. Grace and peace 2. From God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ D. THE THEME OF THE EPISTLE (3) 1. The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is to be blessed (praised) 2. For He has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ II. OUR SPIRITUAL POSSESSIONS IN CHRIST (3-14) A. BLESSINGS INVOLVING THE FATHER (4-6) 1. We are chosen by God (4) a. Chosen in Christ before the world began b. Chosen to holy and without blame before Him in love 2. We are predestined by God (5-6a) a. Predestined to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself b. Predestined according to the good pleasure of His Will -- To the praise of His glorious grace 3. We are accepted by God (6) a. Accepted by virtue of His glorious grace b. Accepted in the Beloved (Christ) B. BLESSINGS INVOLVING THE SON (7-12) 1. God has redeemed us (7a) a. Redeemed in Christ b. Redeemed through His blood 2. God has forgiven us (7b-8) a. Forgiven us of our sins b. Forgiven us according to the riches of His grace 1) Which God has made to abound toward us 2) Abounding in all wisdom and prudence 3. God has revealed His will to us (9-10) a. Revealed the mystery of His will 1) According to His good pleasure 2) Which He purposed in Himself b. Revealed how He will gather together in one all things in Christ 1) Things in heaven 2) Things on earth 4. God has given us an inheritance (11-12) a. An inheritance predestined by God 1) According to His purpose 2) Who works all things according to His will b. An inheritance... 1) For those who first trusted in Christ 2) So they can be to the praise of God's glory C. BLESSINGS INVOLVING THE HOLY SPIRIT (13-14) 1. The Holy Spirit is our "seal" (13) a. Having trusted in Christ after hearing the word of truth, the gospel of salvation b. Having believed, we were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise 2. The Holy Spirit is our "guarantee" (14) a. The guarantee of our inheritance b. The guarantee until the redemption of the purchased possession -- To the praise of God's glory III. PAUL'S FIRST PRAYER: FOR THEIR ENLIGHTENMENT (15-23) A. THAT WHICH PRECIPITATED HIS PRAYER (15-16) 1. Having heard of their: a. Faith in the Lord Jesus b. Love for all their saints 2. Resulting in his: a. Unceasing thanks for them b. Making mention of them in his prayers B. THE CONTENT OF HIS PRAYER (17-23) 1. To whom addressed (17a) a. The God of our Lord Jesus Christ b. The Father of glory 2. That God would... a. Give them the spirit of wisdom and revelation (17b) b. Enlighten the eyes of their understanding (18a) 3. That they might know... a. The knowledge of God (17c) b. The hope of His calling (18b) c. The riches of the glorious inheritance in the saints (18c) d. The exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe (19a) 4. Regarding this power toward us who believe... a. It is according to working of God's mighty power in Christ (19b-20a) b. The same mighty power which... 1) Raised Christ from the dead (20b) 2) Seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places (20c-21) a) Far above all principality, power, might, dominion, and every name b) Not only in this age, but also in that which is to come 3) Put all things under His feet (22a) 4) Gave Him to be head over all things to the church (22b-23) a) Which is His body b) Which is the fullness of Him who fills all in all REVIEW QUESTIONS FOR THE CHAPTER 1) What are the main points of this chapter? - Introduction (1-3) - Our spiritual possessions in Christ (3-14) - Paul's first prayer: for their enlightenment (15-23) 2) Why is God to be blessed (praised)? (3) - Because He has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ 3) What blessings have we received that pertain especially to the Father? (4-6) - He chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world - He predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ - He made us acceptable in the Beloved (Jesus) 4) What blessings have we received that pertain especially to the Son? (7-12) - God has redeemed us through His Son's blood - God has forgiven us of our sins - God has revealed His will to us - God has given us an inheritance 5) What blessings have we received that pertain especially to the Holy Spirit? (13-14) - We have been "sealed" by the Holy Spirit - We have received the Spirit as a "guarantee" of our inheritance 6) What had Paul heard, that prompted his prayers in their behalf? (15-16) - Of their faith in the Lord Jesus - Of their love for all the saints 7) Concerning what did Paul pray that his readers might know and be enlightened? (17-19) - The knowledge of God - The hope of His calling - The riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints - The exceeding greatness of His power toward those who believe 8) According to what is God's power toward those who believe? (20) - The mighty power God worked in Christ, in raising Him from the dead and seating Him at His right hand 9) What is Christ's exalted position at God's right hand? (21) - Far above all principality, power, might, dominion, and every name that is named, both now and in the age to come 10) What has been placed under His feet? Over what is He the head? (23) - All things - The church 11) What is the church in relation to Christ? (23) - His body - The fullness of Him who fills all in all
"THE EPISTLE TO THE EPHESIANS" Introduction AUTHOR: The apostle Paul (1:1; 3:1). Early sources in church history that attribute this letter to Paul include: Irenaeus (200 A.D.), Clement of Alexandria (200 A.D.), and Origen (250 A.D.). Polycarp (125 A.D.) attests to its canonicity in his own epistle to the Philippians (chapter 12). THE RECIPIENTS: There are reasons to believe that this epistle was not designed for just one congregation, but intended to be passed around to several churches in the area surrounding Ephesus. The earliest manuscripts do not contain the phrase "in Ephesus" (cf. 1:1). The epistle itself is in the form of a general treatise rather than as a letter written to a specific church. For example, there are no specific exhortations or personal greetings. It is thought by some (Conybeare and Howson) that this letter is the epistle that was first sent to Laodicea (cf. Col 4:16), and designed to be shared with other churches, including Ephesus. Because Ephesus was the leading city of the region, and the main center of Paul's missionary activity in the area (cf. Ac 19:1,8-10), it is understandable why later scribes might have assigned this epistle to the church at Ephesus. Without question it was intended for "the saints ...and faithful in Christ Jesus." (1:1) PAUL'S MINISTRY IN THE REGION: Paul first came to Ephesus for a short visit toward the end of his second missionary journey (Ac 18:18-19). Located on the SW coast of Asia Minor (modern day Turkey), Ephesus was one of the great cities in that part of the world. A Roman capital, it was a wealthy commercial center and home for the worship of the goddess Diana (cf. Ac 19:23-41). Though Paul briefly studied with the Jews at the local synagogue and was invited to stay longer, he made plans to visit them again after a quick trip to Jerusalem (Ac 18:20-21). On his third missionary journey Paul made it back to Ephesus for an extended stay of three years (cf. Ac 19:1,10; 20:31). After his initial success in converting twelve disciples of John (Ac 19:1-7), Paul spent three months teaching in the local synagogue (Ac 19:8). Resistance to his doctrine forced him to leave the synagogue, but he was able to continue teaching in the school of Tyrannus for a period of two years. The end result is that the gospel spread from Ephesus throughout Asia Minor (Ac 19:9-10). A disturbance created by some of the local idol makers finally forced Paul to leave Ephesus (Ac 19:23- 20:1). Toward the end of his third journey, Paul stopped at nearby Miletus, and met with the elders of the church at Ephesus. Reminding them of his work with them, he charged them to fulfill their own responsibilities as overseers of the flock of God, and then bid them a tearful farewell (Ac 20:17-38). TIME AND PLACE OF WRITING: Ephesians is one of Paul's four "prison epistles" (3:1; 4:1; 6:20; cf. Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon). The general consensus is that these epistles were written during Paul's imprisonment at Rome (cf. Ac 28:16,30-31). If such is truly the case, then Paul wrote Ephesians around 61-63 A.D. from Rome. The indication is that the epistles to the Colossians, Philemon and the Ephesians were carried to their destination by Tychicus and Onesimus (cf. 6:21-22; Col 4:7-9; Phm 10-12). PURPOSE OF THE EPISTLE: Unlike other epistles written to specific churches, this epistle does not deal with specific problems in a local congregation. Instead, Paul addressed great themes that pertain to the Christian's position in Christ, as a member of the body of Christ, the church. As expressed in his prayer for his readers, it was his desire that they might know: * What is the hope of God's calling (1:18) * What are the glorious riches of God's inheritance in the saints (1:18) * What is God's great power toward those who believe (1:19) In the first three chapters, Paul answers his own prayer by expounding upon their spiritual blessings in Christ. The last three chapters focus on the conduct (or "walk", cf. 4:1,17; 5:2,8,15) expected of those so richly blessed. Therefore Paul writes to: * Remind Christians of their spiritual blessings in Christ (1:3) * Exhort Christians to have a "walk worthy of the calling with which you were called" (4:1) THEME OF THE EPISTLE: A grand epistle like Ephesians almost defies coming up with one main theme. With its exalted view of the church in God's plan of redemption, it is common to suggest the theme as "The Church, The Fullness of Christ". Another theme which does justice to the content of the epistle and one that I suggest for this study is that offered by Warren Wiersbe: "THE BELIEVER'S RICHES IN CHRIST" KEY VERSE: Ephesians 1:3 "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ," OUTLINE: (adapted from The Bible Exposition Commentary, Vol. 2, Warren W. Wiersbe, p.7): INTRODUCTION (1:1-2) I. DOCTRINE: OUR RICHES IN CHRIST (1:3-3:21) A. OUR SPIRITUAL POSSESSIONS IN CHRIST (1:3-14) 1. From the Father (1:4-6) 2. From the Son (1:7-12) 3. From the Spirit (1:13-14) -- First Prayer: for enlightenment (1:15-23) B. OUR SPIRITUAL POSITION IN CHRIST (2:1-22) 1. Raised and seated on the throne (2:1-10) 2. Reconciled and set into the temple (2:11-22) -- Second Prayer: for enablement (3:1-21; with verses 2-13 as a parenthesis) II. DUTY: OUR RESPONSIBILITIES IN CHRIST (4:1-6:20) A. A CALL TO WALK IN UNITY (4:1-16) 1. Preserving the unity of the Spirit with proper attitudes (4:1-7) 2. Edifying the body of Christ by the grace given us (4:8-16) B. A CALL TO WALK IN PURITY (4:17-5:21) 1. Walk not as other Gentiles (4:17-32) 2. Walk in love (5:1-6) 3. Walk as children of light (5:7-14) 4. Walk as wise (5:15-21) C. A CALL TO WALK IN HARMONY (5:22-6:9) 1. Husbands and wives (5:22-33) 2. Parents and children (6:1-4) 3. Masters and servants (6:5-9) D. A CALL TO WALK IN VICTORY (6:10-20) 1. Standing strong in the power of the Lord (6:10-13) 2. Equipped with the whole armor of God (6:14-20) CONCLUSION (6:21-24) REVIEW QUESTIONS FOR THE INTRODUCTION 1) To whom is this epistle addressed? (1:1) - The saints and faithful in Christ Jesus; actual identity uncertain 2) From where and when did Paul write Ephesians? - From Rome, sometime around 61-63 A.D. 3) What three other epistles were written about this time? What are the four epistles sometimes called? - Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon - The "prison epistles" 4) When did Paul first come to Ephesus (Ac 18:19-22) - Toward the end of his second missionary journey 5) When and how long did he spend most of his time at Ephesus? (Ac 18: 23; 19:1; 20:31) - On his third missionary journey; three years 6) For what three things did Paul pray that they might know? (1:15-19) - The hope of God's calling - The glorious riches of God's inheritance in the saints - God's great power toward those who believe 7) What is the two-fold purpose of this epistle? (1:3; 4:1) - To remind Christians of their spiritual blessings in Christ - To exhort Christians to have a "walk" worthy of their calling 8) What is the "theme" of this epistle, as suggested in the introduction? - The Believer's Riches In Christ 9) What serves as the "key verse" of this epistle? - Ephesians 1:3 10) According to the outline above, what are the two main divisions in this epistle? - Doctrine: Our Riches In Christ - Duty: Our Responsibilities In Christ
What is the Jewish Talmud?
“Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition? For God commanded, saying, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.’ But you say, ‘Whoever says to his father or mother, “Whatever profit you might have received from me is a gift to God”—’then he need not honor his father or mother.’ Thus you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition. Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying: ‘These people draw near to me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me, teaching as doctrine the traditions of men’ ” (Matthew 15:3-9).
In interpreting the Law of Moses, the Pharisees overstepped their bounds by inserting the traditions of their fathers in place of God’s holy law, and were summarily condemned by the Lord for their actions. Though Jesus preached against this Pharisaical traditionalism throughout His earthly ministry, the Judaism practiced today is based almost exclusively upon it. What Jesus called the “traditions of men” is now known as “rabbinicalism,” and is grounded firmly in the extrabiblical writings of the Talmud.
The Jews believe that two laws were given to Moses—the written and the oral. Both were given to Moses by God at Sinai: the written was engraved on stone tablets, and penned by Moses shortly before his death (Deuteronomy 31:9-13), while the oral was revealed in the conversation between God and the great Lawgiver on the mountain. This second body of law was passed from Moses to Joshua, from Joshua to the Israelite elders, and then from generation to generation as the ages passed. Each generation of teachers “expanded” on this law, which eventually became quite extensive, and added much unnecessary legislation to God’s already adequate laws. It was this orally transmitted law that was advanced and defended by many of the Pharisees of Jesus’ day (Matthew 15:1-2), and then used in their attempts to restrict Him from certain activities on the Sabbath (Mark 3:1-6). The Jews found justification for the oral law in Exodus 20:1 (“And God spoke all these words…”), although this interpretation of the passage is contrived at best.
After the destruction of Jerusalem and the Bar-Kokhba rebellion in the first century A.D., the rabbis who were familiar with the oral law were few in number, and it was feared that there would not be enough Jews left to pass on the great traditions. To remedy this potential problem, Rabbi Judah the Prince set out to organize and record the oral law into a formal body of written law in A.D. 166 (Telushkin, 1991). The oral law, now called the Mishna, was methodically organized. Formerly, if a question arose about the Sabbath, a search would be made in all five books of the Torah (the first five books of the Old Testament), and scattered references would be collected. This was time-consuming and impractical during the time when books were rare, and so Rabbi Judah organized and grouped all related passages into topical sections, along with the interpretations, opinions, and precedents that characterized the oral traditions. Thus the Mishnah, the codified oral law, consists of 63 “tractates” relating to every aspect of Jewish life.
To illustrate the differences in the two types of law, contrast these passages from the Torah and the Mishna. The Torah declares: “Ye shall kindle no fire throughout your habitations upon the Sabbath day.” This was practiced in a literal fashion for centuries (with the Jews probably sitting around in the cold and dark from Friday night until Saturday evening), until the scribes and Pharisees came along with their new interpretation. These learned men declared that it was acceptable to have lights on the Sabbath, so long as they were kindled before the Sabbath began, and not touched until after the Sabbath ended. This interpretation led to all sorts of little regulations to guard people from accidentally touching the lamp on the Sabbath. One of these was the Mishna regulation “one shall not read by the lamplight”—the reason being, if one were reading by the lamp, one might be tempted to adjust the light, and thereby violate the original commandment (see Browne, 1933, pp. 181ff.).
As the Jewish teachers continued to study and debate the fine points of the Mishna, a body of scholarly commentary grew, which subsequently was called the Gemara. This commentary was combined with the Mishna, and referred to as the Talmud. There are two works that fall under this appellation, labeled by their place of origin: the Babylonian Talmud, and the Jerusalem Talmud. The latter is less intact, and was completed c. A.D. 350, while the former and more respected of the two was completed c. A.D. 550. Today, only one manuscript survives: the Munish manuscript of 1342. These books are of tremendous size, comprising about 6,000 pages in today’s modern print. Alfred Edersheim, noted Jewish scholar, defined the Talmud in this way:
If we imagine something combining law reports, a Rabbinical “Hansard,” and notes of a theological debating club—all thoroughly Oriental, full of digressions, anecdotes, quaint sayings, fancies, legends, and too often of what, from its profanity, superstition, and even obscenity, could scarcely be quoted, we may form some general idea of what the Talmud is (1972, p. 103).
The Talmud is intended to do more than simply restate the law; the material is meant to connect the laws to everyday life, and to give practical instruction. The Talmud presents the opinions of the scholars, and presents their debates over each topic, no matter how mundane or inane. Its purpose was to complement the Torah, but it came to supplement (if not displace) it. Note the tediousness and absurdity of the following rabbinic debate:
Rabbah [a Babylonian scholar] said [that one should not read by the lamplight] even if it be placed [far out of reach, say] the height from the ground of two men, or two stories, or even on top of ten houses, one above the other.[That is] “one may not read.” But it does not say two may not read together, [for then one can guard the other against snuffing the wick]. Against this supposition, however, there is a tradition that “neither one nor two together” [may read].Said Rabbi Elazar: “There is no contradiction here. The Mishna allows [two people to read together] so long as they read the same subject. But the tradition [forbids it only if] they are reading different subjects…” (Browne, 1933, pp. 182-183, emp. in orig.).
And so it goes, on and on…
Such Socratic, rambling dialogue is common in the Talmud, and many examples could be cited. Strong and McClintock remarked:
Abounding, moreover, in fantastic trifles and Rabbinical reveries, it must appear almost incredible that any sane man could exhibit such acumen and such ardor in the invention of those unintelligible comments, in those nice scrupulosities, and those ludicrous chimeras which the rabbins have solemnly published to the world… (1970, 10:168).
Underlying the Talmud is the assumption of the perfection of the Mishna, giving this book of human origin a sanctity almost equal to that of the Bible (Douglas, 1991, p. 808). This became necessary for the survival of Judaism after the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, since much of the Old Law revolved around the Temple. After the House of God was destroyed and the Jews scattered, Judaism essentially had to be rewritten. Observe in this excerpt the great respect given to the traditions, compared to the law in the Talmud:
The spirit of the Talmudic process is expressed in a tale in tractate Baba Meziah. Rabbi Eliezer, a proponent of unchanging tradition—“a well-lined cistern that doesnt lose a drop,” as his teacher characterized him—was engaged in a legal disputation with his colleagues. “He brought all the reasons in the world,” but the majority would not accept his view. Said Rabbi Eliezer, “If the law is as I hold it to be, let this tree prove it,” and the tree uprooted itself a hundred amma, but they said, “Proof cannot be brought from a tree.” Rabbi Eliezer persisted, saying, “Let these waters determine it,” and the waters began to flow backwards, but his colleagues responded that waters cannot determine the law. Once again Rabbi Eliezer tried, asking the walls of the study house to support him. They began to totter, whereupon the spokesman for the majority, Rabbi Joshua, admonished them, “when rabbis are engaged in legal discussion what right have ye to interfere!” So the walls did not fall in respect for Rabbi Joshua, nor did they return to their upright position, in respect for Rabbi Eliezer-and “they remain thus to this day!” But Rabbi Eliezer would not surrender and cried out: “Let Heaven decide.” A voice was heard from Heaven saying: “Why do ye dispute with Rabbi Eliezer; the law is always as he says it to be.” Whereupon Rabbi Joshua arose and proclaimed, quoting Scripture, “It is not in Heaven!” Rabbi Jeremiah explained, “The Law was given at Sinai and we no longer give heed to heavenly voices, for in that Law it is stated: ‘One follows the majority.’ ” God’s truth, divine law, is not determined by miracles or heavenly voices, but by the collegium of rabbis, men learned in the law, committed to the law and expert in its application to the life of the pious community (“The Talmud,” 2003).
Despite the tedious legalese illustrated above, the Talmud does offer pieces of wisdom and learning. “Be thou the cursed, not he who curses.” “The soldiers fight, and the kings are called the heroes.” “The passions are not all evil, for were it not for them, no one would build a house, marry a wife, beget children, or do any work.” One third of the book consists of “clever fables and quaint legends and amusing proverbs” like those mentioned above, and is the essential source for all Jewish culture.
Today, Jews accept the Talmud in many different ways. An old joke says that if you put ten Jews in a room together you’ll get eleven different opinions on it. The Orthodox Jews basically accept the Talmud as authoritative, while the more liberal Reformed Jews reject most of the legislation. Conservatives fall somewhere in between. Nonetheless, it is accepted by all Jews as an important body of tradition and lore.
The Christian can learn a great lesson from this discussion about the dangers of adding to God’s Word. In the case of the Jews, what began as small footnotes to the Word became a body of literature all its own—a body that now possess as much authority in some minds as the written law of God. While there is always a place for scholarly examination and reference in personal Bible study, we must be careful never to accept “as doctrine the commandments of men.”
[The Talmud can be found on-line at http://www.sacred-texts.com/jud/talmud.htm]
Edersheim, Alfred (1972), The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans).
Browne, Lewis (1933), Stranger than Fiction (New York: Macmillan).
Douglas, J.D., ed. (1991), New 20th-Century Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge (Grand Rapids: Baker).
“The Talmud” (2003), Jewish Virtual Library [On-line], URL: http://jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/loc/Talmud.html.
Telushkin, Joseph (1991), Talmud/Mishna/Gemara [Reprinted at Jewish Virtual Library], [On-line],URL: http://www.us-israel.org/jsource/Judaism/talmud_&_mishna.html.
M’Clintock, John and James Strong (1970), Cyclopædia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature (Grand Rapids: Baker).
Does Genesis 4 Indicate that God Specifically Created Others Besides Adam and Eve? by Eric Lyons, M.Min.
Does Genesis 4 Indicate that God Specifically Created Others Besides Adam and Eve?
|by||Eric Lyons, M.Min.|
If Adam and Eve were the only human beings that God miraculously created, where did all of the people come from who were of great concern to Cain? After God sentenced the murderous Cain to be “a fugitive and a vagabond” on the Earth (Genesis 4:12), recall that Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is greater than I can bear” (4:13). Cain then said: “Surely You have driven me out this day from the face of the ground; I shall be hidden from Your face; I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond on the earth, and it will happen that anyone who finds me will kill me” (4:14, emp. added). God then responded to Cain, saying, “Therefore, whoever kills Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him seven-fold.” So, “the Lord set a mark on Cain, lest anyone finding him should kill him” (4:15, emp. added). Do the references to “anyone” and “whoever” in these verses suggest that God specially created others besides Adam and Eve?
Before answering these questions, one must keep in mind that Genesis chapters 1-11 cover approximately the first 2,000-plus years of human history (Butt, 2002; cf. Lyons, 2002). The following 1,178 chapters of the Bible tell us about the next 2,000 years. Although the first 11 chapters of Genesis are undeniably literal, historical language (cf. Thompson, 2001), God chose to reveal to man only a few important facts about the first 2,000-plus years of man’s existence—and most of this revelation is about Creation, the Fall, and the Flood. What’s more, Genesis chapters 4-5 likely cover a period of more than 1,400 years. Thus, a lot of time can pass between events without the text specifically expressing exactly how many decades or centuries elapsed.
How much time elapsed in Genesis 4:2? Immediately following the announcement of Cain and Abel’s births (4:1-2), the text says, “Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground” (4:2). Most likely, at least 20 years had passed by this time, and it could be that several more decades had expired before Cain and Abel finally settled on their respective vocations. (How many people today do not settle on a profession until they are 35 or 40 years old?)
How much time transpired when the Bible says, “And in the process of time it came to pass that Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground to the Lord” (4:3, emp. added)? How long was Cain angry with Abel before God spoke to Cain about his anger (4:6)? How long was it before Cain spoke with Abel (4:8)? (Have you ever known people, even family members, to hold-in feelings of resentment for years or decades?) Genesis 4:8 says, “It came to pass when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him” (emp. added). Again, we cannot know exactly how much time transpired between the conversation that Cain had with Abel and the day that he actually murdered Abel (4:8).
The fact is, Cain could have been 100 years old or more by the time he killed his brother. [Keep in mind that since the patriarchs often lived to be several hundred years old (e.g., Adam died at the age of 930), being 100 in that day, was somewhat comparable to being 20 today.] What’s more, Adam and Eve may have had 50 children or more by the time Cain killed Abel (cf. Genesis 5:4). They may have had 300 grandchildren by then. There could have been three or four generations of Adam’s descendants on Earth by the time God sentenced Cain to be “a fugitive and a vagabond.”
How many children, and possibly grandchildren, did Adam and Eve have when God said, “Whoeverkills Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold”? How many people had descended from Adam by the time God “set a mark on Cain, lest anyone finding him should kill him”? Who were the “whoever” and “anyone” that both God and Cain mentioned? They were the dozens, hundreds, or possibly thousands of people on Earth by that time—all of whom were descendants of Adam, “the first man” (1 Corinthians 15:45) and Eve, “the mother of all living” (Genesis 3:20). In no way does reason or inspired revelation forbid a literal interpretation of Genesis; on the contrary, it demands such.
Butt, Kyle (2002), “The Bible Says the Earth is Young,” Apologetics Press,http://www.apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=9&article=885.
Lyons, Eric (2002), “When Did Terah Beget Abraham?” Apologetics Press,http://www.apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=13&article=624.
Thompson, Bert (2001), “Genesis 1 thru 11—Mythical or Historical?” Apologetics Press,http://www.apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=11&article=451.
Clearing-Up "Contradictions" about Jehovah in Genesis
|by||Eric Lyons, M.Min.|
The infinite attributes and actions of God are no small matter to consider. In truth, man could never meditate on anything greater. We marvel, as did the apostle Paul, at “the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!” (Romans 11:33). We are awestruck by His eternality. We tremble at the thought of His omnipotence. We humbly bow before Him Who knows our every thought. As David recognized, “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me” (Psalm 139:6). Experientially speaking, as finite beings, we will never be able to fully grasp the wonders of God. As Jehovah Himself said, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways…. For as the heavens are higher than the Earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9). Yet, how thankful we are that God chose to reveal certain things to us about Himself (cf. Deuteronomy 29:29; 1 Corinthians 2:10-16), which, as much as is humanly possible, we can come to know. He is love (1 John 4:8). He is logical (1 Corinthians 14:33). He is just (Acts 10:34-35). He is worthy of all praise, honor, and obedience (Psalm 18:3; Matthew 10:34-39). He is everything that His inspired Word reveals that He is.
Oftentimes, however, passages of Scripture are cited by Bible critics as “proof” of the Book’s errancy and of the contradictory portrait that the inspired writers allegedly painted of God. In his 2009 debate with Kyle Butt on the existence of God, atheist Dan Barker spent nearly two-thirds of his opening 15-minute speech listing 14 alleged “inconsistencies” among Bible verses that allude to various characteristics and actions of God. Four of those 14 “contradictions” were from the book of Genesis (Butt and Barker, 2009). Dennis McKinsey, in his book titled Biblical Errancy, spent 44 pages listing numerous charges against God and the Bible’s statements about Him. Sixteen of those 44 pages referred a total of 37 times to alleged problematic passages in the book of Genesis (McKinsey, 2000, pp. 133-177). On his Web site attempting to expose the Bible and the God of the Bible as frauds, R. Paul Buchman listed 83 “contradictions” involving “God’s Nature” and 142 about “God’s Laws” (2011). Fifty-one times he referred to Genesis.
Legion are those who claim that the Bible paints an inexplicable, paradoxical portrait of God. When the Scriptures are honestly and carefully examined, however, all such criticisms of the Creator and His Word are shown to be either mere misunderstandings or artificially contrived contradictions. Consider some of the most frequently cited allegations against Jehovah in Genesis.
DOES JEHOVAH REALLY KNOW EVERYTHING?
Numerous passages of Scripture clearly teach that God is omniscient. The Bible declares that the Lord “knows the secrets of the heart” (Psalm 44:21), that His eyes “are in every place” (Proverbs 15:3), and that “His understanding is infinite” (Psalm 147:5). Of Jehovah, the psalmist also wrote:
O Lord, You have searched me and known me. You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thought afar off. You comprehend my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word on my tongue, but behold, O Lord, You know it altogether…. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain it. Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there (139:1-4,6-8).
The New Testament reemphasizes this truth, saying, “God is greater than our heart, and knows all things” (1 John 3:20, emp. added). “[T]here is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account” (Hebrews 4:13). Not only does He know the past and the present, but the future as well (Acts 15:18; cf. Isaiah 46:10). There is nothing outside of the awareness of God.
If God knows (and sees) everything, some have questioned why certain statements exist in Scripture that seem to indicate otherwise. Why was it that God questioned Cain regarding the whereabouts of his brother Abel if He already knew where he was (Genesis 4:6)? Why did the Lord and two of His angels ask Abraham about the location of his wife if He is omniscient (Genesis 18:9)? And, if God knows all and sees all, why did He say to Abraham concerning Sodom and Gomorrah: “I will go down now and see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry against it that has come to Me; and if not, I will know” (Genesis 18:21, emp. added; cf. Genesis 22:12)? If God is omniscient, why would He need to “go” somewhere to “see whether” people were wicked or not? Does God really know everything?
First, when critics claim that the questions God asked Cain or Sarah (or Satan—cf. Job 1:7; 2:2) suggest that God’s knowledge is limited, they are assuming that all questions are asked solely for the purpose of obtaining information. Common sense should tell us, however, that questions often are asked for other reasons. Are we to assume that God was ignorant of Adam’s whereabouts when He asked him, “Where are you?” (Genesis 3:9). At the beginning of God’s first speech to Job, God asked the patriarch, “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the Earth?” (38:4). Are we to believe that God did not know where Job was when He created the world? Certainly not! What father, having seen his son dent a car door, has not asked him, “Who did that?” Obviously, the father did not ask the question to obtain information, but rather to see if the son would admit to something the father knew all along. When a dog owner, who comes home from work and sees the arm of his couch chewed to pieces, points to the couch and asks his puppy, “Did you do that?” are we to think that the owner really is asking the question for his own benefit?
On occasion, Jesus used questions for the same purpose. When He questioned the Pharisees’ disciples and the Herodians regarding whose inscription was on a particular coin, it clearly was not because He did not know (Matthew 22:15-22). Likewise, when Jesus asked the multitude that thronged Him, “Who touched Me?” (Luke 8:45), it was not because the woman who touched Him was hidden from Him (Luke 8:47). Jesus knew the woman was made well by touching His garment before she ever confessed to touching Him (Mark 5:32). Thus, His question was intended to bring attention to her great faith and His great power (Mark 5:34). Truly, in no way are the questions God asks mankind an indication of His being less than divine.
What about Jehovah’s statement to Abraham recorded in Genesis 18:21? Did He not know the state of Sodom and Gomorrah prior to His messengers’ visit (Genesis 18:22; 19:1-29)? Did He have to “learn” whether the inhabitants of these two cities were as evil as some had said? Certainly not. Moses and the other Bible writer’s usage of phrases such as “I will know” (Genesis 18:21) or “now I know” (Genesis 22:12) in reference to God, actually are for the benefit of man. Throughout the Bible, human actions (such as learning) frequently are attributed to God for the purpose of helping finite beings better understand Him. This kind of accommodative language is called anthropomorphic (meaning “man form”). When Jehovah “came down to see the city and the tower” built at Babel (Genesis 11:5), it was not for the purpose of gaining knowledge. Anthropomorphic expressions such as these are not meant to suggest that God is not fully aware of everything. Rather, as in the case of Babel, such wording was used to show that He was “officially and judicially taking the situation under direct observation and consideration, it having become so flagrant that there was danger (as in the days of Noah) that the truth of God’s revelation might be completely obliterated if it were allowed to continue” (Morris, 1976, p. 272). Almighty God visited Sodom and Gomorrah likely “for appearance’ sake, that men might know directly that God had actually seen the full situation before He acted in judgment” (Morris, p. 342). As Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown noted in their commentary on Genesis: “These cities were to be made ensamples to all future ages of God’s severity, and therefore ample proof given that the judgment was neither rash nor excessive (Ezek 18:23; Jer 18:7)” (1997).
Similar to how God instructs man to pray and make “known” to Him our petitions for our benefit (Philippians 4:6), even though He actually already knows our prayers and needs before they are voiced (Matthew 6:8), for our profit the all-knowing God sometimes is spoken of in accommodative language as acquiring knowledge.
WAS GOD'S NAME "JEHOVAH" MADE KNOWN TO THE PATRIARCHS?
Skeptics not only criticize the Bible’s teaching about God’s knowledge; they are also critical of what Scripture says man has known (via revelation from God) in the past. You would find it odd if someone you had known very well for years said, “you did not know him.” You might think this friend had become a liar or a lunatic if he indicated that you were not aware of his name, even though you had known his first and last name for many years. Skeptics claim we should be equally bothered by what the Bible says, because it indicates that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob did not know God by His name, Jehovah, even though the book of Genesis indicates that they did.
After Moses first visited Pharaoh regarding the release of the Israelites from bondage, God assured Moses that the Israelites would be liberated. He then added: “I am Jehovah: and I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, as God Almighty; but by my name Jehovah I was not known to them” (Exodus 6:2-3, emp. added; NOTE: All Scripture citations in this section are taken from the American Standard Version). The difficulty that Bible students have with this statement is that the name “Jehovah” (Hebrew Yahweh; translated LORD in most modern versions) appears approximately 160 times in the book of Genesis. Furthermore, “Jehovah” is used between Genesis chapters 12-50 (which deal mainly with the families of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob) more than 100 times.
After God provided a ram for Abraham to sacrifice (instead of his son, Isaac) on Mount Moriah, Genesis 22:14 says, “Abraham called the name of that place Jehovah-jireh. As it is said to this day, in the mount of Jehovah it shall be provided” (emp. added). Years later, Isaac asked his son Jacob (who was deceiving his father in hopes of receiving a blessing), “How is it that thou hast found it so quickly, my son? And he said, because Jehovah thy God sent me good speed” (Genesis 27:20, emp. added). How could God tell Moses that “by my name Jehovah I was not known to them” (Exodus 6:3), if Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were well aware of the name Jehovah, and even used it in their conversations? Is God a liar? Does the Bible contradict itself on this point? What reasonable answer can be given?
There is no denying the fact that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were aware of God’s name, Jehovah (Yahweh) [cf. Genesis 15:7; 22:14,24-35,40,42,48,56; 24:50,51; 26:22; 27:20; 49:18; etc.]. As John J. Davis wrote: “[I]n the book of Genesis…the name of Yahweh is introduced in a way which utterly precludes the supposition that it is used proleptically, or that it is anything but a correct account of the incident and the actual term employed” (Davis, 1963, 4:34). Based upon the number of times the word (Yahweh) appears in Genesis, and the various ways in which it was used, including being a part of compound names that have specific meanings (e.g., Jehovah-jireh, meaning “Jehovah will provide”), it is unwise to argue that the patriarchs in Genesis were unaware of the name Jehovah. So what is the answer to this alleged problem?
Although Bible critics and unbelievers may scoff at any attempt to explain Moses’ statement, which they believe is irresolvable, the fact is, a logical explanation exists. The expressions “to know the name of Jehovah” or simply “to know Jehovah” frequently mean more than a mere awareness of His name and existence. Rather, “to know” (from the Hebrew word yada) often means to learn by experience. When Samuel was a boy, the Bible reveals that he “ministered before/unto Jehovah” (1 Samuel 2:18; 3:1), and “increased in favor both with Jehovah, and also with men” (2:26). Later, however, we learn that “Samuel did not yet know Jehovah, neither was the word of Jehovah yet revealed unto him” (1 Samuel 3:7, emp. added). In one sense, Samuel “knew” Jehovah early on, but beginning in 1 Samuel 3:7 his relationship with God changed. From this point forward he began receiving direct revelations from God (cf. 1 Samuel 3:11-14; 8:7-10,22; 9:15-17; 16:1-3; etc.). Comparing this new relationship with God to his previous relationship and knowledge of Him, the author of 1 Samuel could reasonably say that beforehand “Samuel did not yet know Jehovah” (3:7).
According to Gleason Archer, the phrase “to know that I am Jehovah” (or “to know the name of Jehovah”) appears in the Old Testament at least 26 times, and “in every instance it signifies to learn by actual experience that God is Yahweh” (1982, pp. 66-67). In the book of Exodus alone, the expression “to know” (yada) appears five times in relation to Jehovah, and “[i]n every case it suggests an experiential knowledge of both the person and power of Yahweh. In every case the knowledge of Yahweh is connected with some deed or act of Yahweh which in some way reveals both His person and power” (Davis, 4:39). For example, in one of the passages that has drawn so much criticism, God stated: “I will take you to me for a people, and I will be to you a God; and ye shall know that I am Jehovah your God, who bringeth you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians” (Exodus 6:7, emp. added). Later, after God already had sent ten plagues upon the Egyptians (Exodus 7:14-12:30), parted the Red Sea (Exodus 14), and miraculously made bitter water sweet (Exodus 15:22-25), He said to Moses, “I have heard the murmurings of the children of Israel: speak unto them, saying, At even ye shall eat flesh, and in the morning ye shall be filled with bread: and ye shall know that I am Jehovah your God”(Exodus 16:11-12, emp. added). After several more weeks, God said to Moses on Mount Sinai: “And they shall know that I am Jehovah their God, that brought them forth out of the land of Egypt, that I might dwell among them: I am Jehovah their God” (Exodus 29:46, emp. added). Did the Israelites not know Who Jehovah was by this time? Without question, they did. “They had already learned of Him as deliverer; now they would know Him as their provider” (Davis, 4:39).
Notice also what Isaiah prophesied centuries after the time of Moses.
Now therefore, what do I here, saith Jehovah, seeing that my people is taken away for nought? They that rule over them do howl, saith Jehovah, and my name continually all the day is blasphemed. Therefore my people shall know my name: therefore (they shall know) in that day that I am he that doth speak; behold, it is I (Isaiah 52:5-6, emp. added).
More than 100 years later, following Judah’s entrance into Babylonian captivity, God foretold of their return to Judea and spoke to them through the prophet Jeremiah. He said: “Therefore, behold, I will cause them to know, this once will I cause them to know my hand and my might; and they shall know that my name is Jehovah” (Jeremiah 16:21, emp. added). Are we to gather from these statements that Israel and Judah were not aware of God’s name (Jehovah) before this time in their history? Certainly not. Obviously, something else is meant by the expression “to know (or not know) the name of Jehovah.” In truth, it is a Hebrew idiom that “generally signifies knowledge of some particular act or attribute of Yahweh as it is revealed in His dealing with men” (Davis, 4:40; see also Bullinger, 1898, p. 554).
Even in modern times it is possible for someone to know a person’s name or office without really“knowing” the person (or understanding his/her office). Imagine a group of foreigners who had never heard of Michael “Air” Jordan before meeting him at a particular convention a few years after his retirement from the NBA. They might come to know his name in one sense, but it could also be said that by his name “Air Jordan” they really did not know him. Only after going to a gym and watching him dunk a basketball by jumping (or “flying” in the air) from the free throw line, and seeing him in his original “Air Jordan” shoes, would the group begin to understand the name “Air Jordan.”
Admittedly, at first glance, the many references to “Jehovah” in the book of Genesis may seem to contradict Exodus 6:3. However, when one realizes that the Hebrew idiom “to know” (and specifically “to know” a name) frequently means more than a mere awareness of a person, then the difficulty disappears. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob knew God as Creator and sovereign Ruler of the Universe. But it would not be until centuries later, when God fulfilled the promises made to these patriarchs by delivering the nation of Israel from Egyptian bondage, that the full import of the name Jehovah would become known.
DID GOD TEMPT ABRAHAM?
One of the most criticized passages throughout the centuries in the book of Genesis has been chapter 22. In recent years, relentless Bible critic Dan Barker has alleged that he “knows” the God of the Bible cannot exist because “there are mutually incompatible properties/characteristics of the God that’s in this book [the Bible—EL] that rule out the possibility of His existence.” One of the scriptures that Barker frequently cites as proof of the Bible’s alleged inconsistent portrait of God is verse one of Genesis 22 (Barker, 1992, p. 169; Barker, 2008, p. 230; Butt and Barker, 2009). According to the King James translation of this passage, Genesis 22:1 affirms that “God did tempt Abraham” (KJV) to sacrifice his son Isaac. However, since James 1:13 says: “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man” (KJV, emp. added), Barker has insisted that God is like a married bachelor or a square circle—He cannot logically exist, if He both tempts and does not tempt.
If Genesis 22:1 actually taught that God really tempted Abraham to commit evil and sin, then the God of the Bible might be a “square circle,” i.e., a logical contradiction. But, the fact of the matter is, God did not tempt Abraham to commit evil. Barker and others have formulated this argument based upon the King James Version and only one meaning of the Hebrew word (nissâ) that is used in Genesis 22:1. Although the word can mean “to tempt,” the first two meanings that Brown, Driver, and Briggs give for nissâ in their Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament is “to test, to try” (1993). Likewise, the Theological Lexicon of the Old Testament (1997) defines the word simply “to test” (Jenni and Westermann, 1997, 2:741-742). The Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament agrees thatnissâ is best translated, whether in secular or theological contexts, as “testing” (Botterweck, et al., 1998, 9:443-455). For this reason, virtually all major translations in recent times, including the NKJV, NASB, ESV, NIV, and RSV, translate Genesis 22:1 using the term “tested,” not tempted.
When David put on the armor of King Saul prior to battling Goliath, the shepherd realized: “I cannot walk with these, for I have not tested (nissâ) them” (1 Samuel 17:39, emp. added). Obviously, this testing had nothing to do with David “tempting” his armor; he simply had not tested or tried on Saul’s armor previously. God led Israel during 40 years of desert wanderings “to humble…and test” them (Deuteronomy 8:2, emp. added), not to tempt them to sin. Notice also the contrast in Exodus 20:20 between (1) God testing man and (2) trying to cause man to sin. After giving Israel the Ten Commandments, Moses said: “Do not fear; for God has come to test (nissâ) you, and that His fear may be before you, so that you may not sin” (Exodus 20:20, emp. added). If one were to use Barker’s reasoning that nissâ must mean “to tempt,” regardless of the context, then he would have to interpret Exodus 20:20 to mean that God tempted Israel to sin, so that they would not sin—which would be an absurd interpretation.
When a person interprets the Bible, or any other book, without recognizing that words have a variety of meanings and can be used in various senses, a rational interpretation is impossible. Many alleged Bible contradictions are easily explained simply by acknowledging that words are used in a variety of ways (as they are today). Is a word to be taken literally or figuratively? Must the term in one place mean the exact same thing when in another context, or may it have different meanings? If English-speaking Americans can intelligibly converse about running to the store in the 21st century by drivinga car, or if we can easily communicate about parking on driveways, and driving on parkways, why do some people have such a difficult time understanding the various ways in which words were used in Bible times? Could it be that some Bible critics like Barker are simply predisposed to interpret Scripture unfairly? The evidence reveals that is exactly what is happening.
Rather then contradicting James 1:13, Genesis 22:1 actually corresponds perfectly with what James wrote near the beginning of his epistle: “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work,that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing” (1:2-4, emp. added). By instructing Abraham to sacrifice his promised son (cf. Hebrews 11:17), God gave Abraham another opportunity to prove his loyalty to Him, while Abraham simultaneously used this trial to continue developing a more complete, mature faith.
SEEING JEHOVAH "FACE TO FACE"
Another attack that skeptics have levied against God, Genesis, and the inspired writers, involves the theophanies of God. Throughout the book of Genesis, Moses recorded where Jehovah “appeared” to man several times. He appeared to Abraham at about the age of 75 (12:7). He appeared to him again about a quarter of a century later (17:1). Prior to His destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, God appeared to Abraham in Mamre (18:1). The Lord also appeared to Isaac and Jacob (26:2; 26:24; 35:9). In Genesis 32:30, after wrestling with God, Jacob even exclaimed, “I have seen God face to face” (emp. added). Such appearances of Jehovah in Genesis have caused some to question the reliability of the Bible, and in particular the book of Genesis (Wells, 2012). How could God have appeared to man, and spoken to him “face to face,” when other biblical passages clearly teach thatGod’s face cannot be seen (Exodus 33:20-23; John 1:18; 1 John 4:12)?
Although in modern times words are regularly used in many different senses (e.g., hot and cold, good and bad), Bible critics have dismissed the possibility that the terms in the aforementioned passages were used in various ways. Throughout Scripture, however, words are often used in different ways. In James 2:5, the term “poor” refers to material wealth, whereas the term “rich” has to do with a person’s spiritual well-being (cf. Lyons, 2006). In Philippians 3:12,15, Paul used the term “perfect” (NASB) in different senses. Although Paul had attained spiritual maturity (“perfection”) in Christ (vs. 15), he had not yet attained the perfect “final thing, the victor’s prize of the heavenly calling in Christ Jesus” (Schippers, 1971, 2:62; cf. Philippians 3:9-11). Similarly, in one sense, man has seen God, but in another sense he has not.
Consider the first chapter of John where we learn that in the beginning Jesus was with God and “was God” (1:1; cf. 14,17). Though John wrote that Jesus “became flesh and dwelt among us” (1:14), he indicated only four sentences later that “no one has seen God at any time” (1:18; 1 John 4:12). Was Jesus God? Yes. Did man see Jesus? Yes. So in what sense has man not seen God? No human has ever seen Jesus in His true image (i.e., as a spirit Being [John 4:24] in all of His fullness, glory, and splendor). When God, the Word, appeared on Earth 2,000 years ago, He came in a veiled form. In his letter to the church at Philippi, the apostle Paul mentioned that Christ—Who had existed in heaven “in the form of God”—“made Himself of no reputation,” and took on the “likeness of men” (2:6-7). Mankind saw an embodiment of deity as Jesus dwelt on Earth in the form of a man. Men saw “the Word” that “became flesh.” Likewise, when Jacob “struggled with God” (Genesis 32:28), He saw only a form of God, not the spiritual, invisible, omnipresent God Who fills heaven and Earth (Jeremiah 23:23-24).
But what about those statements which indicate that man saw or spoke to God “face to face”? Jacob said, “I have seen God face to face” (Genesis 32:30). Gideon proclaimed: “I have seen the Angel of the Lord face to face” (Judges 6:22). Exodus 33:11 affirms that “the Lord spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend.” First, although these men witnessed great and awesome things, they still only saw manifestations of God and a part of His glory (cf. Exodus 33:18-23). Second, the words “face” and “face to face” are used in different senses in Scripture. Though Exodus 33:11 reveals that God spoke to Moses “face to face,” only nine verses later God told Moses, “You cannot see My face; for no man shall see Me, and live” (33:20). Are we to believe that the author of Exodus was so misguided and careless that he wrote contradictory statements within only nine verses of each other? Surely not. What then does the Bible mean when it says that God “knew” (Deuteronomy 34:10), “spoke to” (Exodus 33:11), and “saw” man “face to face” (Genesis 32:30)?
A logical answer can be found in Numbers 12. Aaron and Miriam had spoken against Moses and arrogantly asked: “Has the Lord indeed spoken only through Moses? Has He not spoken through us also?” (Numbers 12:2). God then appeared to Aaron and Miriam, saying: “If there is a prophet among you, I, the Lord, make Myself known to him in a vision; I speak to him in a dream. Not so with My servant Moses; He is faithful in all My house. I speak with him face to face, even plainly, and not in dark sayings; and he sees the form of the Lord” (Numbers 12:6-8, emp. added). Notice the contrast: God spoke to the prophets of Israel through visions and dreams, but to Moses He spoke, “not in dark sayings,” but “plainly.” In other words, God, Who never showed His face to Moses (Deuteronomy 33:20), nevertheless allowed Moses to see “some unmistakable evidence of His glorious presence” (Jamieson, et al., 1997), and spoke to him “face to face, as a man speaks to his friend” (33:11), i.e., He spoke to Moses plainly and directly.
Neither the book of Genesis nor the Bible as a whole reveals “mutually incompatible characteristics of God” as modern-day skeptics have alleged. In actuality, many comments by the enemies of God reveal their devious, dishonest handling of Truth (cf. 2 Corinthians 4:2; 2 Timothy 2:15). Think about it: If skeptics can work “side by side” with a colleague without literally working inches from him (Barker, 2008, p. 335), or if he can see “eye to eye” with a fellow atheist without ever literally looking into the atheist’s eyes, then can they not understand that, for example, God could speak “face to face” with the patriarchs and prophets of old without literally revealing to them His full, glorious “face”? Indeed, it is the inconsistent allegations of the critic that should be under scrutiny. He readily accepts the understandable, non-discrepant differences in many modern-day writings, yet loudly protests against similar logical, explainable differences in Scripture.
Skeptics’ assertions in no way prove that the God of the Bible does not exist or that the Bible is unreliable. In fact, the opposite is true. The more that skeptics test the Scriptures, trying to find flaws of all kinds, the more evidence comes to light that it is actually of Divine origin (see Butt, 2007).
“The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever” (Isaiah 40:8).
Archer, Gleason L. (1982), An Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan).
Barker, Dan (1992), Losing Faith in Faith (Madison, WI: Freedom From Religion Foundation).
Barker, Dan (2008), godless (Berkeley, CA: Ulysses Press).
Botterweck, G. Johannes, Helmer Ringgren, and Heinz-Josef Fabry (1998), Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
Brown, Francis, S.R. Driver, and Charles B. Briggs (1993), A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament (Electronic Database: Biblesoft).
Buchman, R. Paul (2011), “1001 Contradictions and Discrepancies in the Christian Bibles,” http://www.1001biblecontradic-tions.com/index.html.
Bullinger, E.W. (1898), Figures of Speech Used in the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1968 reprint).
Butt, Kyle (2007), Behold! The Word of God (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press).
Butt, Kyle and Dan Barker (2009), The Butt/Barker Debate: Does the God of the Bible Exist?(Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press).
Davis, John J. (1963), “The Patriarchs’ Knowledge of Jehovah: A Critical Monograph on Exodus 6:3,”Grace Theological Journal, 4:29-43, Winter.
Jamieson, Robert, et al. (1997), Jamieson, Fausset, Brown Bible Commentary (Electronic Database: Biblesoft).
Jenni, Ernst and Claus Westerman (1997), Theological Lexicon of the Old Testament (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson).
Lyons, Eric (2006), “Answering the Allegations,” Apologetics Press,http://www.apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=11&article=539.
McKinsey, C. Dennis (2000), Biblical Errancy (Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books).
Morris, Henry M. (1976), The Genesis Record (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
Schippers, R. (1971), Telos, The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, ed. Colin Brown (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan).
Wells, Steve (2012), Skeptic’s Annotated Bible, http://skepticsannotatedbible.com/contra/seen.html